At the third annual New Ventures India Investor Forum in Mumbai, sustainable entrepreneurs connected with investors to network, build partnerships and find opportunities for growth. Participants in the two-day forum found that sustainable businesses can still flourish, even in today’s uncertain economic times.
New Ventures India helps sustainable business entrepreneurs overcome business challenges and spark economic development–as well as environmental improvement–in India. The program is a joint partnership between the Confederation of Indian Industries, Godrej Green Business Centre and the World Resources Institute. The Investor Forum is meant to facilitate investment into businesses that have a high potential to grow and the ability to change the environmental and social landscape. And India’s entrepreneurs proved just how innovative they have become with green technology.
A wide range of interesting businesses were showcased, including Eco Recycling Ltd., India’s leading organization involved in recycling hazardous electronic waste. Another innovative start-up company, Autoboxx Automation, provides energy management services that can help 900,000 small area sites–such as ATMs–dramatically reduce their energy consumption and costs costs by 20-30% through automation and monitoring software.
The Investor Forum comes on the heels of India’s acknowledgment of the need for sustainable development. Recently, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released India’s first National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC), which laid the foundation for future development of the country’s green economy.
All the participants at the New Ventures India Forum made strong cases for creating environmental and social change through sustainable business. Representatives from several countries acknowledged the need for all countries to share responsibility on the climate change challenges the world will face in the next century.
As the Investor Forum began, the audience seemed overwhelmed with concern about the current economic situation. Participants were particularly worried about how receptive financiers would be to sustainable enterprises given the current financial crisis.
But one moment seemed to turn everyone’s views around. Two entrepreneurs—Mr. Jadhav from Nandan Biomatrix and Mr. Sharma from SBA Hydro Systems—achieve major milestones over the past year with assistance from the New Ventures India Team. SBA Hydro received investment funding from Acumen Fund, while Nandan Biomatrix secured a major strategic partnership. In 2007, they were selected as front-runners in the Investor Forum, and their businesses are now tremendous examples of success. The two told their stories to those in attendance, and they beamed with excitement and gratitude about how they had realized their dreams.
Their story heightened the audience’s enthusiasm, and I could clearly see those in attendance, including the ten selected entrepreneurs for 2008, thinking about the possibilities and opportunities that might await them. In addition, Dr. Saurabh Srivastava, Chairman of the Indian Venture Capital Association (IVCA), reminded participants that investors were not there for philanthropic reasons—rather, they were there to provide funding for future success stories.
The distinguished Tessa Tennant, Board Member of the Calvert Social Investment Fund and co-founder of the UK’s first equity fund focused on sustainable development, eloquently said that if you look back at a list of the top twenty companies from twenty years ago, the list would be completely different from what it is today. The reminder rejuvenated the hope that two decades from now, an entrepreneur at the forum could be running one of the top companies in India.
With that inspirational notion in mind, entrepreneurs shared ideas and presented their business cases to investors. Investments that happen as a result the enterprise development and investment facilitation support of New Ventures India will allow the capital markets to actively participate in the change that is happening in India’s environmental and social frameworks.
In the end, a recurring theme of the event was that a green economy can provide innumerable growth opportunities. Each entrepreneur shared his or her story of beginning a business, facing challenges, achieving growth, and looking to the future.
These types of green enterprises, which would pique the curiosity of even conventional investors, will one day supply the social and environmental returns that only sustainable businesses can provide.